There are a lot of country songs about having baby daughters—almost always sung by a tender daddy. And there are a fair share of country tunes about seeing your adult daughter leave home or get married—again, usually performed by a guy in touch with his sensitive side. But the difficult, in-between years that can drive a parent to drink? Those don't get written about. Martina McBride is rectifying that with her new single, "Teenage Daughters," which hits the desks of country radio programmers on Monday, March 7.
McBride premiered the tune this week at a private party for radio pros being held during Country Radio Seminar by her new label. She recently left RCA/Sony, her home of 18 years, for the Big Machine/Universal Republic indie imprint. That's right: some the money being spent by the nation's teenage daughters on Taylor Swift records career is being put back into Martina's, so that she sing one for those girls' beleaguered moms.
After being introduced by comedian Melissa Peterman (pictured—the former costar of Reba and current star of CMT's Working Class), McBride and her band did a short set that included several songs from the new album she's still at work on. The standout was her about-to-be-released debut single for the label, which starts off like this:
"I ain't complaining but I'm tired, so I'm just saying what I think/If we're being honest, then honestly, I think I need a drink/My baby's growing up, she thinks she's falling all in love, and that I hate her/At 17, she's just like me when I was 17, so I don't blame her..."
After the show, Our Country caught up with McBride backstage to ask her about the new song and other new developments in her career.
"It's interesting to me that there haven't been other songs written about it, because almost everybody goes through it," she said. "I have an awesome relationship with my 16-year-old daughter, but about a year and a half ago, I started noticing a shift." (Other parents of teenage daughters may be saying at this point: It took her that long to turn on you: You don't know how lucky you are, M.) "It stopped being all about me and it was more about her friends. Which it should be. It's perfectly normal. But as the person who was the center of the universe to this child, you go, 'Oh. Well, this is a journey.' So the Warren Brothers and I wrote a song about it, and it came really quickly, in about 45 minutes."
There was a particular instigation for the tune the day of the writing session. "John, my husband, took Delaney to school that morning, and she said, 'Mom hates me.' I'm like, what are you talking about? That's ridiculous. But I must have gotten on her a little bit too much. So we started talking and I said that's what we should write about."
Some other key lines parents will relate to: "Remember what we used to be/Everything they'd ever need/We had them believing that we're cool... Now we're always wrong, they're always right... She rolls her eyes when I'm funny, but she's sweet when she wants money..."
It might seem like a bit of a risk to go with that as a first single when, increasingly, singers are being told to be as universal as possible with every song and not release anything that any member of the listening audience wouldn't be able to relate to. But McBride doesn't think you have to be a harried, shot-swigging mama to sing along.
"We were leaning toward another song for the first single, and then I recorded this song, and I said I wanted it to be the first. This is a different sound for me, and also, it's my truth—it's really real. When we played five or six songs for the record label, they immediately turned around after 'Teenage Daughters' was over and said 'That's your first single.' And I was so happy. Yes, it's about people who have teenage daughters, but also, if you've been a teenage daughter, if you have a niece or sister or somebody in your life that you're close to that you've gone through the teenage years with, you can identify with it for sure."
Martina is co-producing her as-yet untitled album with Byron Gallimore (of Faith Hill fame). It'l be surprisingly autobiographical for a singer who almost never wrote her own material until collaborating with the Warrens on the smashing "Anyway" a few years ago.
"I co-wrote eight songs for this one," she says. "I didn't set out to do that. I love songwriters. But I just decided to set aside time to focus on it, which I never had before. I was reluctant. But I'm into it. I love it. I always used to say that the songs I sang that I didn't write were just as personal to me as if I would have written them. But now, I don't know. Actually writing a song and being able to put your thoughts in, and tailor it so the melody fits your voice—it's really been a great experience."
She's thrilled to be part of Scott Borchetta's highly successful indie label group, even though it will be strange for Country Radio Seminar veterans not to see her on the annual Sony Music "boat show" this year. It's funny that Borchetta's labels, which rose up in the ranks by breaking newcomers like Swift, Justin Moore, and the Band Perry, are now signing established acts away from major labels, including McBride, Reba, and Rascal Flatts. McBride acknowledges that seeing how the Big Machine group reinvigorated Reba's career helped influence her decision to go with them.
"They've given me such an optimistic look at the future," she says. "It's a great feeling. I had a great run at RCA [which was absorbed by Sony], and I had some great friends there—who are still friends, I'm proud to say. We had a great run, and an 18-year career that got me to this point. But it was just time... time to move on. It was time for some fresh energy—you know, people maybe that hadn't known me for 18 years."
That's right: Besides having a teenage daughter, McBride also has a teenaged career. She's hoping this particular teenager, too, is just coming into its independent own.